Series: Nomaden

Horses of the Celestial Mountains


A film by Thomas Wartmann
© 2007 / 43 min (German+French) and 52 min (English) / Digi Beta / 16:9 / Stereo

“I have found my mission in Kyrgystan”, says French horse devotee Jacqueline Ripart. In the remote regions of the Tien Chan mountains in Kyrgyzstan the 54 year old hopes to find the last remaining specimens of the small, tough horses with which Genghis Khan once conquered Central Asia and which are now threatened by extinction.

Under Soviet rule the delicate Kyrgyz horse was “bred“ with larger Russian breeds to produce meat for slaughter. Traditional horse races and riding games were also abolished, just like the travelling minstrels and their traditional music. This left deep wounds in the cultural identity of the Kyrgyz, who claim their sons can ride before they learn to walk. Since the fall of communism they have been trying to find their way back to the old nomadic traditions.

The film accompanies horse expert Jacqueline Ripart in her efforts to revive the breeding of the “original” Kyrgyz horse. She organises a large riding festival at the mountain lake, Issyk-Kul, every year so that the mares and stallions can come together again. Archers on horseback, minstrels, and hunting with eagles and dogs are all on the programme as well as wrestling on horses and endurance races. Director Thomas Wartmann documents the preparations for the 2006 festival and paints a portrait of the young horse trainer, Odiz. The hopes of the whole village rest on him and his two year-old Kyrgyz stallion "Prix".

Another protagonist is old Abdillajan. He and his wife Olga have eight children and sixteen grandchildren. The entire clan of herders, which spends the summer on the high valley in a yurt, lives for horse sports: the sons are passionate Kok-Buro players, a sort of horse football where a beheaded goat is used for a ball. And his daughter Asyyl is the favourite at “Kiz Kumai”, at “catching girls”. She will escape the men trying to plant a kiss on her at full gallop on the family's fastest black horse — only to turn and torment her opponent with the riding whip on the way back — such are the rules of the game.



Written and directed by Thomas Wartmann
Cinematography: Alexander Hein
2nd unit camera: Cathérine Farvacques, Artiom Kholod
Sound: Akjol Bekbototov
Editing: Verena Schönauer
Sound mix: Hans R. Weiss
Music: Ludwig Eckmann, Winfried Zrenner
Production manager: Markus Breimaier
Production assistant: Anna Brass
Location manager: Almaz Kemelov
Producer: Thomas Wartmann
Commissioning editors: Ulrike Becker, SWR, and Gabriele Conze, WDR

A coproduction of Filmquadrat, Südwestrundfunk and Westdeutscher Rundfunk
in collaboration with ARTE.


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